Everyone knows how distracting it can be to use a mobile phone while driving, but a new psychological study shows that phones can be disruptive in many more situations, including in classrooms.
According to Jill Shelton of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues writing in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, just hearing a phone ring in some circumstances is enough to pull people out of their train of thought and break their concentration.
Lower test scores
Shelton conducted an experiment by posing as a student in a crowded lecture hall and allowing her phone to ring in her bag for 30 seconds.
Afterwards, she examined student scores on tests about the lectures and found them 25 per cent lower than in cases where the phone wasn't introduced.
According to her paper, it made no difference if the same material was presented a second time before or after the phone interruption - the disturbance still damaged the students' ability to recall it later.
The study goes on to suggest that people warned in advance that there may be a disturbance were able to recover better afterwards and recall information, but we can still expect to hear a lot more about the nuisance value of mobile phones.